Adaptation, Influence, Interpretation and Inspiration

I was going to pose the question, “Would Bazin still believe that film adaptations benefit literature today?” with the thought in mind that “The influence of a dominant neighbor on the arts is probably a constant law” (61).  However, I would rather ask a more ambiguous one that is “inspired” by Bazin’s “In Defense of Mixed Cinema.”

What is the difference between adaptation, influence, interpretation and inspiration?

Bazin claims that adaptation is “an established feature of the history of art” (56). If one thinks of the argument that he is trying to pose, his use of this term makes perfect sense. Bazin is attempting to “elevate” film to the level of the other arts and shoot down a number of the biases that Stam discussed in our initial reading (“a priori valorization of historical anteriority and seniority,” “the dichotomous thinking that presumes a bitter rivalry between film and cinema,” facility, parasitism, etc.). Furthermore, since his discussion is centered on adaptation, it is a useful device that reminds the reader of this fact. Readers might, perchance, be inclined to see the application of this term, as Bazin does, to painting and the other arts. Nevertheless, his use of the word “influence” in the previous and later sections makes one pause upon rereading.

Do we say that a Pieta was adapted from the Bible, or that the use of Dracula is an adaptation? When we look at different impressionist paintings, do we say that they are adaptations of each other?  Since I have entered this class, I have been thinking of the film ∏ as an adaptation of the mathematical symbol, but is this correct? With Bazin in mind, does this make sense? Perhaps, one could answer affirmatively with respect to Bazin, but not in everyday use?

Some individuals will say that inspiration is a more appropriate term for discussing an artist’s Pieta. English majors might assert that the use of the figure of Dracula is an allusion depending on whether the actual name is utilized and how the artist depicts such. If the artist alters the figure of Dracula, one might be more inclined to say that the character is adapted from Stoker’s novel. With respect to paintings, some museum attendants are inclined to use the word “influence.” Prior to entering this class, I would have said that ∏ was an interpretation of a fictional individual’s experience with the immensity of the concept. Clearly, there are different connotations with respect to these terms.

Rather than provide definitions and etymology, I would prefer the class to think about how and when they use these terms (adaptation, influence, inspiration and interpretation) for us to come to some consensus. Is our society inclined to apply the term adaptation to arts other than film, and if not, why?

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2 Responses to Adaptation, Influence, Interpretation and Inspiration

  1. Raj says:

    I feel as if Bazin would argue that the use of ∏ in Aronofsky’s film proves more of an inspiration/influence than adaptation. Granted, the term is used cross-modally (or formally to use his term) but I don’t think an ‘equivalence of meaning’ (20) is maintained. Mathematical pi is a signification for a certain number to denote a particular ratio for a geometrical shape. Its significance for groups outside of mathematicians/scientists seems to lie along lines far enough away from the rigors of math/science to void an equivalence of meaning. The film produces a few interpretations of ∏–from science, religion, and capitalism–which show the interplay of influence between each group’s beliefs and the symbol/number. I wouldn’t say the symbol has been adapted for the screen though.
    However…if one was to adapt such a symbol into a narrative form such as a film this does make for a more compelling version than watching a literal ‘reading’ (e.g. watching a circle unravel and divide or whatever to show how one comes up with ∏). Still though, I don’t see the film as being an adaptation of ∏ into narrative form…it’s a narrative where ∏ acts as a catalyst.

  2. What’s tricky is that Bazin uses a few synonyms to define “what happens” in adaptation–and as Raj alludes to a lot of those synonyms turn out to be metaphoric in nature (my favorite is “transforming” in the “Digest” essay). I suppose that’s like the process of trans-media adaptation in the first place?

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